Pedal-steel guitar master, Buddy Emmons has passed away. NPR writes of Buddy:
Country music wouldn’t sound like itself without the pedal-steel guitar, and the instrument sounds the way it does today because of Buddy Emmons, who died Wednesday in Nashville at 78. Though he might not be a household name, Emmons played on records for everyone from Ray Price to Ray Charles, and from George Strait to Judy Collins.
Steve Fishell, who plays pedal steel for Emmylou Harris, calls Emmons a musical genius — even a savant.
“You’re talking about the ability to play fiery, complex, single-note solos that just would leave you staggered when you heard them, coupled with really imaginative chordal work,” Fishell says. “And it all just seemed effortless.”
The pedal steel has humbled many a musician who took a seat at one expecting to make a sweet sound. There are pedals, knee levers, sometimes two sets of strings. Fishell says it takes a special person.
“It’s like a Rubik’s Cube of a musical instrument that’s not unlike driving a stick-shift truck through landmines,” he says. “It’s just rife with possible accidents left and right.”
Emmons made the instrument a bit more complicated. He split one of the pedals into two and added a pair of strings to expand the tuning. During a rare appearance at the Country Music Hall of Fame last year, Emmons described how he’d get all of it to work in sync by practicing in the dark.
“My senses were a little keener,” Emmons said. “It allowed me to hear what I was doing in a different way. It allowed me to feel what I was doing in a different way. I just liked the feeling of what went on in my head while the lights were out.”